Becoming a parent for the first time is scary and exciting all at once whether you’re parenting with disabilities or not. Even if you’ve planned your family for years, you might suddenly find yourself doubting your ability to care for another human being, especially one as tiny and fragile as a newborn. While parenting with disabilities you may certainly face extra challenges, there’s no reason you can’t be the perfect parent to your new baby. Quell your fears by making sure your home is ready for the new addition before s/he arrives. Here are a few things you’ll need to do to prepare:
1. Find products that make parenting with disabilities easier
The right tools can make a world of difference when it comes to taking care of your baby if you’re parenting with disabilities. Careful consideration of the tools that fit your needs will help you find the products truly helpful for you, which may not be the hottest new baby products on the market. Consider carefully what equipment makes it on your wishlist. Often, that means spending time at stores experimenting with different options. Through the Looking Glass offers great product suggestions, clearly paired with the physical or sensory limitation they mediate. Depending on your needs, you may want a co-sleeper crib for easier nighttime feeding, a baby carrier that’s easy to put on and frees up your hands, or a wheelchair-accessible changing station. You may go through a few options before finding the perfect fit, so seek out secondhand gear to save money.
2. Practice everyday care tasks
Bathing, feeding, and changing your baby is stressful enough in the moment without having to learn the skill in real-time. Practicing routine baby care tasks in advance lets you discover creative ways to overcome challenges. A life-sized baby doll is perfect for learning how to change diapers one-handed or while seated, figuring out the most comfortable way to nurse or bottle feed, and finding the safest method for bathing your newborn.
3. Create a parenting plan with your partner
Parenting with an involved partner lets you delegate responsibilities based on each person’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, a mother who experiences tremors might master diaper changing but have trouble handling a wet baby, and thus prefer her spouse to handle bath time. While both parents should know how to handle urgent situations like a soiled diaper or hungry baby, distributing jobs ensures that no one has to be super-parent and do it all alone.
4. Baby-proof your home
While all new parents should take measures to baby-proof their house, parenting with a disability can make it harder to keep a constant eye on a growing child. That makes home safety especially important. Parents should take care of basic safety measures like testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing old fire extinguishers, and anchoring any furniture that could tip over if pulled by a curious baby. In addition, you need to secure cords, cover outlets, place childproof latches on cabinets, put slip-proof mats in bathrooms, and cross-check Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s list to make sure all choking hazards are safely out of reach.
5. Identify resources for support
No matter how independent you are, at some point you’ll have to rely on others. That’s true for parents with disabilities and without, but since there are many unfortunate stereotypes about disability, finding the right resources for you might take a little extra work. Spend time screening pediatricians to find a doctor who is supportive of your decision to start a family, connect with other parents with disabilities, and consider finding someone to help out with household maintenance, playdates, or other troublesome tasks as needed.
While these steps won’t completely take the stress out of caring for a newborn and parenting with disabilities, they’ll ensure you’re as prepared as you can be. And the rest? That will come with time, patience, and lots of practice.
Read more from Ashley at Disabledparents.org